The Eternal Crusade
[The following are excerpts from several reports.]
Hidden in their dark forests and ancient ruins; the Aktharhan, as they supposedly call themselves, are a barbaric tribal culture in comparison to the enlightened races of the Great Continent. In the expansion of the great Fenghuang Empire, the Aktharhan have stymied the colonization efforts of the eastern borders and the Enlightenment of the lesser races by their interference. I, Meig Lao, have been sent out with a platoon of soldiers led by the Captain Sho Lun to record the hopeful adoption of these monsters, otherwise we will wipe them from the face of this world.
Several corpses have already been delivered to the capitol from early fights, for completion’s sake I will summarize what has been discovered by the physicians of Fenghuang. While humanoid, they are altogether monstrous and deviate from humans on a deeply physical level and indeed hold similarities to insects.
Standing nearly eight feet tall, Aktharhan have skeletons made of some unknown alloyed metal that shows a highly durable quality, of which the smiths had difficulty in reforming until they had heated it to a greater extreme than normal. This metal skeleton is sheathed tough muscle fiber that holds more in common with flesh than any plant known to the Fenghuang, and over the muscle is a bark ‘carapace’, which is resistant to minor damage but cannot withstand sword or axe.
They have three sets of limbs, and what can be described as a abdomen that hangs below the hips and extends behind. Aktharhan have four arms, the larger of the pair are tipped with heavy metal claws that reports note of them ripping through flesh and chain mail. The second, smaller set are positioned under the killing arms, and have far more dextrous fingers which can be assumed to be used for more delicate tasks. Their legs are similar to a deer, with an elongated foot made of a curved bar of the alloy that builds the rest of the skeleton.
Their faces are round like a man’s, but instead of a nose or jaw they have awful, serrated, mandibles, and they have several pairs of small, dark eyes leading from where eyes are expected on a proper face back along the temples. The corpses that were brought to the capitol had some remains of garb, all of old cloth with strange markings and large sections of smooth, thick bark carved intricately.
We have arrived at the settlement nearest the Imperial Posting, and have already come across evidence of the monster’s work. Guards stationed in the woods and at the new lumber zones have been reported missing or dead. The dead were strung up in macabre poses and placed at the edges of the new clearings. Here is an item of note: all the copper and bronze equipment, even the pins of the officers taken, have been stripped from clothing or ripped from leather armor. Some men note that holy objects of silver and gold were also missing.
A large scouting party was sent out this morning, with Captain Sho Lun accompanying. The scouts have difficulty tracking the Aktharhan, which the superstitious peasants attribute to evil magic, and the Aktharhan as demons that have claimed the woods as their cursed ground. Seeing the damage to the bodies recovered, I see how such foolish sentiment could take root, but. I have also seen the corpses of these ‘demons’ laid out and stripped down and they are quite clearly not some dark spirit of these forests. We even have proof of them living in villages in the surrounding area, as the first prospectors reported when they first came here. But then as we came in further numbers the Aktharhan have retreated into the woods, and now show their uglier face.
After several months, we have had success! Captain Sho Lun redirected the building efforts towards shoring up what has already been established, and made sure that the Fenghuang will not be driven from this new land. With our influence no longer in the woods, if the Aktharhan wished to harry us them must come to the Imperial Posting.
But this is not the success of which I mean to write of, as great as this once miserable pile of dirt is now a more respectable fortified pile of dirt, it is the fact that we have captured one of the Aktharhan alive! Several have died in the traps the Captain had made, despite the fact he wished them alive despite the requests of the Post’s cleric.
When I was allowed to study the bodies, it was well noted the corspes were heavily maimed, and the cause of death was clearly from another of its kind! The maiming seemed to be in attempt to remove parts of the metal skeleton, and when soldiers rushed to the tripped traps, the living Aktharhan fled.
So it has been two weeks since one of the Aktharhan captured, as they quickly became aware of the traps, and have almost altogether vanished. As the first one taken alive, Captain Sho Lun has requested that I question the creature first, so that it may know we can treat civilly, and if this fails then, “We shall treat this animal with all the courtesy its kind has shown the people of this outpost.”
Two years they have dealt with this menace. The only courtesy that will be shown this creature if it refuses to talk will be with fire.